TfL have formally begun consulting on a number of planned bus changes in preparation of Crossrail starting in about 15 months.

A new route is being introduced from Bexleyheath to Woolwich via Abbey Wood station – the 301. It’s only a single-decker running every 12 minutes (less than many routes) during the day and 15 minutes at night and Sundays, so planners cannot be expecting too many to transfer from the Bexleyheath South Eastern line to Crossrail at Abbey Wood.

Given that the Southeastern Bexleyheath line via Eltham, Kidbrooke, Blackheath and Lewisham sees just four extra four extra carriages planned by 2024 across the entire peak period by Network Rail, it’s hard to see how that is enough if many wont be switching to Crossrail.

I’ve always thought the numbers changing from the Bexleyheath line would be limited given that faster Crossrail journeys would be negated by needing to take a bus first to Abbey Wood.

The 301 is a boost to Thamesmead, but alongside that the consultation reveals that the B11 will be cut back to Abbey Wood/Thamesmead at Harrow Manorway, meaning most of Thamesmead is not served. They’re also cutting frequencies on the remaining stretch from every 15 minutes to every 20 minutes during the day.

One big improvement for Thamesmead is extending the 472 from North Greenwich to Abbey Wood instead of Thamesmead. It appears to terminate by Abbey Wood station but where will it rest out of service? The flyover is currently having work reducing road space from two lanes to one.

The 129 from North Greenwich to Greenwich town centre is being extended to Lewisham Town Centre as a result of the 180 being re-directed to terminate at North Greenwich from Charlton instead of Lewisham. Frequency of the 129 at peak times reduce from every 8 minutes to every 12.

The 180 will also be extended from Belvedere to the new development at the Quarry in Erith. Erith is currently seeing 2000 homes being built so much needed.

More double deckers

Some good news for users of the 178, 244 and 291. All single-decker routes are to become double-decker.

There’s a bunch of good news here but it doesn’t seem enough to shift substantial people to Crossrail from the Bexleyheath or Sidcup Southeastern lines, so the idea that Crossrail is a panacea for many Southeastern crowding issues is probably misplaced. The 301 is only seven minutes quicker than the B11 from Bexleyheath to Abbey Wood and single-decker.

As TfL state, most of these changes lead to frequencies being “about the same” on busy routes. Is that enough in places like Greenwich Peninsula? The 473 sees a small cut and that’s an extremely busy route.

It’ll be interesting to see what Greenwich Council have to say. Their response to rail changes and consulations has been very poor.

They were quickoff the mark and very vocal when it came to lobbying for Silvertown Tunnel. Remember the photo shoots, tweeting, leaflets in every library etc campaigning for it?

What have they said about TfL being blocked from operating trains, higher fares than most of London for equivalent trips, few staff at night at stations, crowding and carriage numbers? Very, very little. What about news just out that a report produced 7 months ago recommended that extra carriages move over to Southeastern to aid SE London passengers, with the cost put at just £2m? Again, silence from Woolwich Town Hall.

A meeting with the DfT two weeks ago has seen not one Greenwich Councillor report what was said or what they are lobbying for. Numerous questions to Cllr John Fahy, who was there, go unanswered.

When it comes to TfL, they’re in a tough place. Some blame Sadiq Khan for freezing fares leading to a reduction in income, but when fares are already higher than the vast majority of similar large developed cities that seems fair. The real squeeze was caused by George Osborne cutting £700 million from TfL’s budget in 2015 despite a rapidly growing population which he encourages, and the government not allowing London to raise revenue in alternative ways. He doesn’t mention that as editor of the Evening Standard does he?

One obvious solution is something like a tourist hotel tax. I can’t remember the last city around the world I visited that didn’t levy one. Yet London’s Mayor has no power to introduce one – almost unique amongst world cities. Whitehall blocks it. That kind of thing would bring in revenue to assist with cuts.

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